Summer Sweat Rebuilds Wrestling

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Lindsay Wilson, staff writer

While other students lounge beside pools with friends, enjoying summer break after a long school year, Lorenzo Ruiz stands in the middle of a sweltering gym in Iowa, body hunched over trembling knees.

Ruiz’s day has consisted of waking early, running four miles, wrestling for four hours, lifting weights for two, and now he is engrossed in a live wrestling session, competing against wrestlers from around the country while being watched by college coaches and nationally recognized athletes. Wiping his dripping forehead, Ruiz pulls himself upright and takes his stance.

If there’s anything he’s learned from this week of hell, it’s that “the mind can go ten times farther than the body ever will”- there’s no point in giving up now.

In July Ruiz, Grant Smith and Kurt Vagara attended an intensive wrestling camp at the University of Iowa, preparing for their winter season still months away. Although each had different reasons for applying and have their own individual goals, all three wished to improve their skills and mindset in order to achieve their shared dream of winning the North Coast Section team title.

For seven days, the three wrestlers underwent great physical and psychological hardship, facing seemingly impossible workouts and the pressure of being watched by famous college coaches and athletes. Ruiz described the camp as a “do or die” situation. “If you couldn’t keep up, you’d get left behind,” he said.

Ruiz, Smith, and Vagara were friends prior to their trip to Iowa; however, while trying to survive the intense conditioning,they formed bonds much deeper than friendship, according to Ruiz. “We all broke at certain points, but we were able to get through it because we relied on each other for moral support,” he explained.

Already, in the early months of summer, a team was forming.

Ruiz, Smith, and Vagara each said that the camp was a positive experience because they improved their technique, became mentally stronger and more confident in their ability, and benefited from the coaches instruction. All three enjoyed being mentored by the head coach, his coaching staff, and wrestlers.

“We were taught by some of the best wrestlers in the country. It was inspiring,” Ruiz said. He also explained that the University of Iowa wrestling team taught them the importance of leadership in athletics. Vagara seconded this, claiming that the camp’s instruction was essential in making him the athlete he is today. “It made me tougher, they rebuilt me as a wrestler.”

Coincidentally, Ruiz, Vagara, and Smith are three of the five wrestlers for whom Campolindo head coach Bob McLaughlin has high expectations this year. Along with team captain Eric Oeth, they are expected to lead the team by example. Last year’s seniors left a huge void because they were very strong athletically and provided guidance to lower classmen, pushing them to do their best.

Even though the team is in somewhat of a dire situation, with nine seniors graduating last year and only four on the roster this season, it is still expected to vie for the Diablo Foothill Athletic League (DFAL) title with their biggest rival, Las Lomas.

McLaughlin and Oeth are optimistic of their chances, despite the loss of upperclassmen, because of the team’s intensity and their belief that certain individuals will step up. Oeth said, “We are not as experienced, but we still have the same intensity.” Although these gaps will be hard to fill, McLaughlin has high expectations for Ruiz, Smith, Vagara, Mark Monasevitch, and Jackson Wiley.

But, McLaughlin is confident that inexperience will not be a problem, as long as certain individuals improve and the team learns from mistakes made last year. He said, “I want to see the kids wrestle mistake free. If they do that, then they will win.”  Smith seconds this optimism, attributing their success to the varsity and junior varsity coaches. “With the great coaching staff of McLaughlin and Tom Reno, we have a great shot to perform as well as last year,” he said.

Campo wrestling faces a great challenge this year with a youthful roster; however, with the off-season work they’ve accumulated, the odds may be turning in their favor.